"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Sunday 14 June 2020


I’ve been a prodigious reader for as long as I remember. Reading was the best teacher I found. I learned other things too; like a professional author writes a single story and all the rest being but variations on a theme.

Initially, I found Letters to the Editor were a satisfying outlet for strong opinions on anything and everything. I submitted to all 3 Toronto newspapers, The Telegram, Star, and Globe and Mail and published often enough to convince me writing had a place in my life.

My reading became selective. If the point of the story was not made in the first page, if it didn’t catch my interest immediately, it wasn’t likely to do so. Some successful novels were just a bunch of research strung together with a cast of unlikely characters. Many of them became movies.

Once, when I was nine, I wrote an essay about a movie I’d seen during the summer. The assignment was an essay about a vacation. We never went on vacation. A family picnic or a day at Largs was the closest we got. Sister Eugenius could hardly hide her disdain. The movie was The Four Feathers and I ended my essay, as taught, with a line from a poem.

“For men may come and men may go, but I go on forever” from a Mountain Brook. I was nine years old for Goodness Sake.

My choice was not appropriate, she sniffed. I was already feeling self-conscious about not being able to afford a family vacation. I was not pleased with the negative review.

Later in life, last thing at night, after the lights were out and I was in bed, at ten minutes to eleven, I listened to a Book at Bedtime on BBC radio. A reader read for ten minutes from a successful novel. That was before television and I thought it was better than television. I could imagine it better than television could produce it.

Later still, I watched a program on Arts and Entertainment, an hour long interview of successful writers responding to questions from university students, about their daily writing routine

I knew I had a facility. I’d been doing it a long time; Letters mostly. For family members in the beginning. Except for reading, nothing gave me greater satisfaction than writing. Had there been further guidance or encouragement and without WW2, my path might have been charted along different lines.

Huge tomes, like Michener and Leon Uris were favourites. Then I discovered the deeper the tome, the more pages were filled with minute descriptive details. If I turned over several at a time, the tale continued without skipping a beat. Some books kept me reading all night, to creep into bed before daylight, so no-one would know I hadn’t slept. Then I’d be sorry it was finished and wished there was more.

After buying a home in Aurora, the Banner Editor called to ask why I didn’t write letters to the local newspaper. I didn’t need to be asked twice. More water flowed under the bridge and more years of life experience, I did some news reporting. I learned the value of brevity and that a news item is not like a school composition or essay. It has to fit into a space left over from advertising which is the real business of newspapers.

Over a period of eleven years, I wrote a weekly column for two different newspapers, acquired a few more skills and discovered humour in writing. Then, after more years, along came social media. Now, I write to my heart’s content. But most of what I write has a narrow interest. I’ve written a few tales of my childhood and been asked for more. But my childhood was difficult. I’m the last survivor of my family. I can’t write fiction, and I don’t want to delve too deeply. “Don’t go where the guilt lies” advises comedian George Carlin.

I suspect much written by professional authors as fiction, is reality with real characters given fictional aliases. Students are advised to write about what they know.

Mordecai Reischler is successful. Many of his books have become movies. His stories are peopled with characters from life. He describes them with accurate, cruel detail. So much so, that relatives, friends and other associates recognize themselves in his stories and hate him for doing it. It’s a terrible temptation and he obviously doesn’t try to overcome. He’s remorseless.

It’s taken a long time to acknowledge I can’t write fiction. I can only write reality. For a while, I thought maybe the short story might be my genre. I bought a couple of anthologies of award-winning short stories to see what I might learn. But they’ve failed to catch my interest. Since I started this post, I’ve compelled myself to read a couple of dozen from a Canadian anthology compiled by Jane Urquhart.

They are short because they have no beginning or end. Almost all are written by librarians and teachers and journalists. Judging by the vocabulary, some seem to be written to impress other librarians and teachers and journalists of the author’s erudition. Maybe judges of the competitions are from the same sector.

I like words. I hear melody in phrases and sentences. But I don’t hear any lilt in the short stories I’ve read so far. If it were not for this post, I would have put the book aside without finishing a single one. They are dull, they are dreary and they end without ever catching my interest. If it’s the reality of the authors life, it’s a dull, uninteresting, pedantic existence.

So my search continues. In the meantime, I write a blog, I comment on Facebook, I get an argument going wherever I can and probably infuriate a few people along the way.

I believe I may have concluded my search. I may have been writing my life story since I bought the computer. In bits and pieces, scattered here and there...in comments and replies and memories stirred by post cards and photos of the ancient pre-medieval town where I was born and lived my childhood, my mother’s childhood and glimpses, through my mother’s eyes, of my grandmothers and great grandmothers lives.

I have been in the attic room where my great-grandfather spent his last years until the age of a hundred, more than a hundred years ago, reading letters and assisting with government forms and discussing political headlines with members of the Irish Catholic community who had not had the benefit of learning to read and write. My mother’s last memory was of him sitting up in bed, with a long white beard wearing a red stocking cap providing the service that was his responsibility.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Evelyn a fiction writer? Maybe in your next life ��. We've never met, but have followed you for a very long time. Love your writing. But don't know if could ever enjoy a fiction book written by you. I read or heard somewhere, that good writing is the successful communication of truth. Most of your working life was to find truth and communicate it. You are a truth writer and communictor.Nothing I've read or heard you say sounded imaginery. I'm one of those people who would love to read more about your childhood. The little bits that you've written, including the one in this post about your great grandfather is really nice. But I understand and respect your privacy. Please keep writing!!